Web Design by Itself is Worthless

Web Design for ROI

It’s strange how when you want to sell blogging, social media or SEO services you have to explain and prove ROI (Return On Investment) at every step. At the same time I rarely witness debates about the ROI of web design for example.

Web design is taken for granted these days, web hosting as well.

In the case of web hosting it’s probably because it’s not really labor intensive and thus pretty cheap by now. You can even get free web hosting with one or two small ads for example over at Jimdo (full disclosure: I almost worked once for Jimdo LOL).

Now today I wanted to read about the ROI of web design instead of the endless debates of blogging, social media and SEO ROI. The problem is I hardly found anything to read with one exception. At first I used my standard search engine Blekko. I was like “maybe their results suck for that phrase” so I used the well known advertising firm Google as well. All that I found were a few fuzzy old blog posts with one exception.

It seems that web design by itself is worthless.

It’s not just linkbait or a rant. What I want you to understand is that contrary to blogging, social media engagement and search engine optimization where there is an enormous pressure to justify the money put into it web design gets away with “looking good” most of the time.

There is a fantastic book I reviewed once, it’s called Web Design for ROI. I think they published it in 2007. I read it back then and assumed it would become common sense soon but all you can see ever since is the emergence of two new disciplines: UX and CRO. Those two btw are practiced by different people.

UX as in User Experience is mostly done by web designers who have evolved while CRO as in Conversion (Rate) Optimization is done by marketers turned scientific.

So in the worst case you have a web designer, a UX specialist, a conversion optimizer involved in the design of a website while you still have to ask the SEO, social media and blogging experts for their input. Sadly in most cases the client will approach the web design and UX professionals first and the other guys later if at all. I find it still incredibly hard to sell CRO services even when asking clients to do it no matter who the vendor is in case they don’t trust me to optimize their site for conversions.

You can get also a great looking and even pretty usable as well as search engine optimized site over at Jimdo for free.

So what’s the actual value of doing a custom web design for thousands of Dollars or Euros? There is none unless you integrate all of the other disciplines from the start. The “build it and they will come” strategy does not work. It hasn’t btw. in 1997 either when I started in online publishing. By now we know and we have plenty of techniques to deal with it. So don’t act like the Web is still new and all you need is an expensive relaunch of your site.

Don’t call me after the redesign when your site is online and nobody visits it or the few visitors do not buy anything.

Don’t get me wrong. I love web design. I was a web designer myself back in the days when the roles in agencies weren’t as diverse as today. I moved on to where the money is: SEO, social media and blogging. That’s the place the real ROI comes from. A good looking website by itself does not sell.

So don’t be stingy when it comes to SEO, social media and blogging. Just recently a potential client came up to me and wanted a link building campaign for Germany. Their monthly budget? It was a bit more than the equivalent of one item sold of their product: 600 Euro. Do you think that’s enough?